15 YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE VINYL SIDE OF MIDNIGHT
As of this May, 2012, I’ve been producing a weekly jazz radio show, called The Vinyl Side of Midnight, at 89.7fm WLNZ from the campus of Lansing Community College, 9-midnight every Sunday night, for 15 solid years. It’s been a blast, and mainly I want to express my gratitude for the folks at LCC for giving me a shot and a platform to do the show, and for the listeners for tuning in. And for the musicians, without whom there would be nothing to celebrate.
The show began in the Student Services building down the street. At that time the station signed off at midnight and I had to play the Star Spangled Banner and shut the station down at the end of my show. After doing that a few time the generic version started to sound just too jarring after a great evening of jazz, so I substituted Marvin Gaye’s version. Eventually the station started to broadcast 24-7.
Highlights of my experience are many:
I’ve interviewed so many folks on the air, I almost hesitate to start listing because I’m bound to leave some out. But locally there’s been Sunny Wilkinson (my first), Betty Joplin, Ed Fedewa, Ron Newman, Andrew Speight, Betty Baxter, Jim Alfredson, Mike Daniels, Dennis Therrian, Rodney Whitaker, Diego Rivera, “Uncle G” Randy Gilespie, Etienne Charles, Derrick Gardner, Rick Roe, Kris Johnson, Wess “Warmdaddy” Anderson, “Sister Swing” Lynne Gruenwald, Mike Sailor, John Beshay, Sarah Slonin, Thom Jayne and the Nomads, Ray Kamalay, Elden Kelly, Tia Hannah, Adam Rongo, Lawrence Cosentino, Meegan Holland, Robert Busby and many more. I’ve also interviewed Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Werner, Karrin Allyson, Bill Summers, and bunches of other national artists who have played int he Lansing area. Thanks to all of you, espescially the local folks who have done so much for the show over the years.
The callers and fans
Two favorites: a guy called saying he’d just moved from New York and was dreading living in the midwest. Then he turned on my show and I was doing a 3 hour tribute to Thelonious Monk. He called and said it lifted his spirits and made him think “This might not be so bad…”
A second story, much in line with the first, a cabbie called said on Sunday nights he always made sure he was tuned into my show to give visitors he picked up at the airport a good first impression of Lansing. “You make us sound like a cool city, man, thanks!” he said. I’ve just always known we are a cool city.
There’s Anne Serotkin and Greg Graham, two of the biggest supporters of the show. Greg did a piece on local TV covering the show back at the dawn of the jazzfest to link up the burgeoning jazz scene in Lansing.
And, one of my most amusing encounters, was with Holly Brown: we were both in line at the counter of the Better Health Food Store getting lunch one day when the short order cook (who knew us both) said, “You are both big jazz fans.” I asked Holly if that was true and she turned away from me dismissively, stating, “I listen to Vinyl Side.” Just like that. I couldn’t resist. I went into my promo. It was big fun for us both. Holly started calling into the show regularly, winning tickets to the Creole Gallery.
My Top Tracks From The Past 15 years
I recently played NPR’s Top 25 Jazz Songs on a recent program. Great groovy stuff, like Ramsey Lewis’ “The In Crowd” or Cannonball Adderly’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”; historical pieces like Louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues”, Coleman Hawkins’ “Body & Soul” or Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”; iconic compositions like Miles’ “All Blues” or Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”. The real creme de la creme. But what else do they have in common? They were all recorded decades ago. The most recent song was Weather Report’s “Birdland”.
I had to think, “That’s not right.”
There are so many great artists playing and creating jazz today, what are we missing as DJs and fans and writers about the music? So, in celebrating my 15 years on the air I challenged myself to come up with a program that focused on my Top 25 tracks from the past 15 years. The challenge, it turns out, was limiting the number to 25. The other (self imposed) challenge was to limit myself to one selection per artist. Tough choices were made (which Diana Krall cut? The Look of Love or Peel Me A Grape? The answer is below…) and many outstanding artists and tracks are left behind. But this is the fun of it, no?
Search out these tracks via iTunes or in your local record store. Each one is either a deeply grooving or moving cover, a brilliant composition, or breaking some new ground, going where no jazz has gone before. Some innovate, some motivate, some make you feel a new emotion.
Christian McBride & Inside Straight – Brother Mister; INSIDE STRAIGHT (Mack Avenue Records)
Cyrus Chestnut – Soul Food; SOUL FOOD (Atlantic)
Bill Frisell – 1968; UNSPEAKABLE (Nonesuch)
John Scofield (w/Medeski, Martin & Wood) – A Go Go; A GO GO (Verve)
Esperanza Spalding – Ponta De Areia; ESPERANZA SPALDING (Heads Up)
Dave Holland Big Band – What Goes Around; WHAT GOES AROUND (ECM)
Dave Douglas – Blue Heaven; SOUL ON SOUL (RCA Victor)
Wayne Shorter Quartet – Masquelero: FOOTPRINTS LIVE! (Columbia)
James Carter – Layin’ In The Cut; LAYIN’ IN THE CUT (Atlantic)
Maria Schneider – The ‘Pretty’ Road; SKY BLUE (Artist Share)
Chris Potter 10 – Closer To The Sun; SONG FOR ANYONE (Sunnyside)
Kurt Elling – I Like The Sunrise; NIGHTMOVES (Concord)
St. Germain – Sure Thing; TOURIST (Blue Note)
Christian Scott – Angola, LA & The 13th Amendment; YESTERDAY YOU SAID TOMORROW (Concord)
Brad Mehldau – Paranoid Android; LARGO (Warner Brothers)
Vijay Iyer – Revolutions; REIMAGINING (Savoy Jazz)
Rudresh Mahanthappa – Ganesha; KINSMEN (Pi Recordings)
Pat Metheny – Betcha By Golly Wow; WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT (Nonesuch)
Joe Lovano – Joyous Encounter; JOYOUS ENCOUNTER (Blue Note)
Diana Krall – The Look of Love; THE LOOK OF LOVE (Verve)
Herbie Hancock (w/Tina Turner) – Edith & The Kingpin; RIVER (Verve)
Robert Glasper – Smells Like Teen Spirit; BLACK RADIO (Blue Note)
Bobby Broom – Witchita Lineman; SONG AND DANCE (Origin Records)
Karrin Allyson – Footprints; FOOTPRINTS (Concord)
Wynton Marsalis Septet – The Majesty of The Blues; LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD (Columbia)